Like everything else in life, it feels like a long time, yet it feels like a very short time. No matter the relative time, this last year has been life-changing, that is for sure.
Want to catch up on my monthly updates? Start here with Month 1
When putting together all that I wanted to share with you about the last year of my ketogenic diet, I looked back at the diary I started at the beginning, when I still considered it a 90-day experiment. Here is what I wrote about 2.5 weeks in:
“Why did I do this?
So many reasons! I was in a motor vehicle accident (MVA) last year and in addition to the chronic pain in my legs, I’ve also been having a really long list of other symptoms (fatigue, lightheadedness, cognitive impairment, gastroparesis, heartburn, extreme hypoglycemia symptoms, uncontrollable appetite, extremely high CRP (inflammation marker), etc.) that I think are related to a mild brain injury and Post Traumatic Hypopituitarism. So I wanted to see if this WOE could help heal my brain. Also, dementia runs on both sides of my family (one side is dead, other side was just sent to assisted living due to it). Family history of diabetes. Metabolic Syndrome (I currently fit the criteria). Low HDL cholesterol. AND I really wanted to learn all I could about keto because I’m a nutritionist and if it worked as well as everyone says it does, then I can’t wait to take it to my clients. (I’m about 2.5 weeks in and so far I’m feeling FANTASTIC and more and more motivated each day to keep going. Improvements I’ve seen already: pain in my legs is nearly gone, cognition is nearly as good as pre-MVA, gastroparesis gone, heartburn gone, CRP dropped 62%, hypoglycemia symptoms gone, and appetite normalized. I haven’t had my cholesterol numbers checked yet, but I’m sure things are improving there, too.
I’ve never been able to follow any kind of diet plan in the past due to extreme feelings of deprivation and constant hunger. And as far as the middle path, mindful eating, intuitive eating, all that stuff I used to teach to all my clients, well, that is what lead me to all the health problems and 50 pound weight gain over 10 years! However, with keto, although it is very restrictive (still plenty to eat though!), it has been way easier for me to stick to, mostly because of the threat of having to start over with the fat adaptation process. It isn’t that fun to go through and takes some time, and I don’t want to start that all over again. The other reason it has been easier is that my appetite is more normal rather than ravenous because my body is actually getting an efficient fuel source.”
This month I decided to do two videos. One is a montage of all my monthly progress photos so you can really see the body transformation. The second video is a verbal update of all the health improvements plus other things that have happened over the last month.
Full Year of Monthly Progress Pictures
My 12-Month Update
What I share on my video:
Review of what made me start a keto diet
Weight loss history
My intermittent fasting experience
My visit to Levl Now lab in Seattle, a company creating a new breath ketone meter
My Top 5 Tips for long-term success on keto
Details of my Instagram giveaway!
Before and After Keto
Weight: 220 pounds to 161.2 pounds
Body Fat: 40% to 28.9%
Waist: 40 inches to 30 inches
Inflammation dropped (CRP down almost 70%)
Clean, whiter teeth
Skin tags on my neck are all gone
Heat tolerance (now I love the sun and heat! I used to get super sweaty all the time and hated the heat)
Normal sleep times (All my life, I had been a night owl, naturally staying up until 2 or 3 am. After the accident and my PTHP symptoms, I could not sleep at night at all and often could not sleep until 6 or 7 am. Now I am sleeping by about 11 pm and up around 7 am. My central sleep apnea is much improved as well.)
No more non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (something I recently realized that I haven’t even mentioned here)
Normal blood pressure (after the accident, it was high enough I was considering taking medication)
No more stiff ankles in the morning (pre-accident symptom)
No more head twitch (something I had not reported here yet, but something else that I remember from pre-accident and pre-keto was a random, uncontrollable head twitch)
Mental and nervous system function greatly improved (after the accident, I was having issues with words getting jumbled when speaking or typing, along with frequently dropping things)
No more popping jaw (TMJ)
Normal digestion (no GERD, no heartburn, no gastroparesis, normal bowel movements, no gas or bloating)
Keto Chat Episode 14 is with Randy Webb, Licensed Professional Counselor in Arizona and Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Washington. Randy was my counseling internship supervisor when I was completing my graduate degree in 2012, and at that time, he was a vegetarian. When I went to visit Phoenix in March 2016, I was excited to talk to Randy about a couple of the therapies he’s passionate about. But then I discovered that he had a big surprise for me regarding his diet!
What we talk about:
Randy’s surprise development of metabolic syndrome, fatigue, sleep trouble, and kidney issues when he was eating, what he thought was, a health diet.
His journey from a low-fat, high carb, vegetarian diet to a lower carb, omnivorous diet
Who inspired Randy to look at his diet and give up oatmeal and consider eating sardines for breakfast
What health improvements he’s seen since changing his diet
Which dietary change had the biggest impact on his health markers
How Randy became interested in hypnotherapy
How trauma can lead to mindless eating, emotional eating, or stress eating and what can be done about it
How EMDR therapy empowers a person to build their own internal resources for health and well-being as opposed to other talk therapy that focuses on identifying and changing what is “wrong” with a person
Are you struggling with your keto diet? Or maybe you’re ready to try it out for the first time? Check out my 90-Day Keto Diet Challenge Program. I give you easy formulas to meet your macros, weekly live webinars with me, menus and shopping lists, plus group support.
While I was in Phoenix, Arizona a few weeks ago, I sat down with Jim Kellner in his office to chat about how hypnosis can help change habits to support weight loss. Jim is a hypnotherapist and comedian, and as it turned out, Jim had used hypnosis himself to lose weight on a low carb, nearly ketogenic diet.
Watch and listen as we have fun chatting about how stage hypnosis differs from hypnotherapy for optimal performance.
And stick around until the end where Jim hypnotizes me! Do I quack like a duck or bark like a dog? Or do I make Jim a pie?
Ten months means I’m only two months away from being a full year on a ketogenic diet. What will that feel like? And what should I do to celebrate? Since I was late posting my 9 Month update, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have much to report for my ten month update considering it has only been two weeks since my last update. However, much has happened in the last two weeks.
Winters in the Pacific Northwest can be brutal, but not in a snow-and-sleet-and-freezing-temps kind of way. (For reference, it is March right now as I write this.) Northwest winters are long, dark days of grey, dreary, drizzly, cool temperatures that can wreak havoc on a person’s mood. Anyone susceptible to depression can be challenged each year when January or February rolls around in the northwest, having just survived another calendar quarter of grey days. My genetics make me one of those people that are susceptible to winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Another keto win and unexpected benefit is that this year my mood is the best it has ever been at this time of year. While I still feel that tug of depression, it is simply an awareness of it rather than an all consuming mood of a heavy, inescapable wet blanket. I’ve been very impressed with this relief compared to past years of my life. And while my mood has been remarkably better, I still felt the need to get away to the sun and warmth! I decided to reach out to friends in the Phoenix area and take refuge from the grey drizzle and hopefully find some warmth of the sunshine. I would soon happily find myself in 80 – 90 degree weather. Big smiley face.
Travel to Phoenix
While my trip to Phoenix started out as a simple respite from my northwest winter, it quickly turned into a serendipitous adventure of meeting people that have reduced carbohydrate intake in one way or another to help improve their health. The trip was the perfect balance of deeply rewarding work and relaxation. My relaxation included reunions with high school and college friends (has it really been 24 years?!?), soaking up sun by the pool, and of course an In-N-Out burger (Double Double, Protein Style)! My work included these Keto Chat interviews:
Significant weight loss is a huge stressor on the body. When the body is under significant stress, it prioritizes growth and regeneration away from fast growing cells, like hair and nails. I mentioned this in previous posts, but I’ll reiterate here, that what I found in looking through literature was that any kind of diet that produces significant weight loss has the potential to cause hair loss, which I experienced during my nearly 60 pound weight loss. My literature review also made me confident that the hair loss would be temporary, and that once my weight stabilized, my hair would grow back. My weight has been stable for the last 4 months. About 2 weeks ago, I noticed that I have a surprising amount of about 2 – 3 inches of new hair growth at the crown of my head. It makes for interesting work styling my hair now, but I’m excited to have burgeoning luscious locks of hair.
I received further evidence of my good health when I stopped in at an Aveda salon in Phoenix to grab some dry shampoo that I couldn’t bring on the airplane with me. After hearing my proclamation of my oily hair (always has been that way), the stylist offered me a scalp analysis because she suggested that an oily scalp can actually be a sign of dry skin. I laughed a bit, knowing that my skin was very well moisturized from the inside out from all the fat I eat. But I humored her a bit, mostly because I wanted more proof that my body is healthy. She took a nearly microscopic digital photo of my scalp, which revealed three things: my scalp is very health (not dry), my hair follicles all have 2 hairs each (if there were less than this, it is a sign of balding or thinning), and I also have more baby fine hair growing in between my existing hair. The last part was really exciting because in addition to the 2 – 3 inch growth I can see, I have even more hair starting to grow. It seems I will soon have the thickest hair of my life.
All this hair growth is an exceptionally good sign that my body is in very good health.
Dairy Free Update
About a month ago, I decided to do a dairy-free month for two reasons. One, in support of my son, who decided to see how much more his acne would improve, and two, because I was becoming concerned about the amount of heavy whipping cream I was consuming. It was standard operating procedure in our house to have a large batch of whipped heavy whipping cream on hand to go on coffee. It was quite delicious, but that was part of the problem. It was so delicious that over time, I began wanting more, and more, and more, which is a sign of the addictive part of my brain being triggered. It was time to give it a rest and see how I felt.
We quickly realized that dairy, especially cheese, was a convenience food in our house. Without that quick and easy, grab-and-go food, I began exploring alternatives. I found some dairy-free cream cheese alternatives, but they were too expensive to grab much of our attention. We soon settled on nuts as our new quick and easy snack, but being mindful of portion size when we do. One trick I use to minimize mindless nut snacking is to keep them in the freezer. We will grab only a small handful and then put them back. Keeping them in the freezer keeps them out of sight, plus is a reminder that they need to be eaten only in limited quantities. We’ve also been using more coconut oil and coconut milk.
Now I’ll admit, I haven’t been 100% dairy free (although my son has). When out to eat, I would have cheese on my burger or salad, and occasionally I would get an Americano from Starbucks with heavy cream. But at home, we were 100% dairy free, and that is where I consume most of my meals.
What did I notice after a month of dairy-free? At first, I really, really missed the whipped cream in my coffee! Coffee just wasn’t as exciting any more. It really was something I looked forward to each morning when I woke up, so I had to go through a bit of a mourning period. I tried making coconut whipped cream, but it just wasn’t the same, but I did end up making coconut milk and coconut oil “creamer” for our coffee and it’s a nice compromise (but still not as good as whipped cream!). I also noticed that I had slightly less body inflammation, as evidenced by my massage therapist being able to work deeper, but that has only come after several weeks.
For the most part, I haven’t tracked my food intake for at least the last 3 months. I use the simple meal formula that I teach my clients in my 90 Day Challenge Program, and while in the beginning it was important to weigh and track all food, the meal formula quickly teaches you how to do this long-term, so you don’t have to track food forever. My weight has been stable, within about 5 pounds, for the last 4 months. You can see from the graph below that I had a whoosh the end of November/beginning of December, losing 7 pounds in only 1 week. After that, my weight was stable, perhaps even trending upward a bit, for the next month, followed by another small whoosh of 4 pounds over 4 days in early February. This was when I started my 5 X 5 weight lifting program, however I found that it startlingly stimulated my appetite, so I paused the program until I could research the best way to do this. I now understand that this is normal, and that I was not eating enough calories to compensate, which is why my appetite felt out of whack compared to what I was used to. I plan to reinstate my 5 X 5 workouts in the next couple of weeks, when I can more carefully monitor what I’m eating to ensure adequate calories while staying in ketosis.
That last three dots that make a straight line? That was before and after my trip to Phoenix. I was pretty impressed with myself, my body, and keto, that even while on vacation I could eat freely, simply following my appetite and maintain my weight, while eating foods such as an entire bag of macadamia nuts, a fast food double cheeseburger (minus the bun), 1 cup of heavy cream in my coffee, eggs and cheese, quadruple creamy dressing on my salads, 4 strips of bacon plus a 3 egg omelet, several pats of butter on top of my side dish, twice eating 10 chicken wings dipped in lots of blue cheese dressing, and more.
Upcoming One Year Keto Anniversary
What suggestions do you have about how I should celebrate my one year keto diet anniversary? I’m thinking I should do some kind of giveaway…
Take the 90 Day Keto Challenge
Are you ready to take the keto plunge? You should join my next 90 Day Keto Diet Challenge Program. Everything you need to succeed on a ketogenic diet: weekly live webinars with me, weekly menus and shopping lists, workbook, and private Facebook support group.
During episode 6 of Keto Chat, I interviewed Amy about her success on the 90 Day Keto Challenge Program.
Amy started the 90 Day Challenge in hopes of alleviating her plantar fasciitis pain and be able to resume running again. Along with pain relief, she also found that keto is the easiest diet she’s every tried and is really enjoying the program. Check out her great tip, too, for staying keto while eating out.
Sheena’s story is an amazing one of tenacity and strength, overcoming chronic migraines and disabling pain. Struggling for years with multiple food allergies and an eating disorder made it especially challenging for Sheena to reclaim her health. One of the primary challenges she had was finding a healthcare professional that would validate her own thoughts and feelings about what was wrong with her since most eating disorder treatment teaches that a person can’t trust her own inner voice or intuition. But once she found a nutritionist that was willing to listen to her, that is when her healing really began.
As she moved into recovery from her eating disorder, she began transitioning to a higher fat diet, and then finally to a ketogenic diet.
She is truly an inspiration. Check out our keto chat and the results she has experienced.
9 months on a ketogenic diet. Wow. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday I started this way of eating. In other ways, it seems like forever ago that I was in that old body with all those debilitating symptoms. In the beginning, I mentally committed to at least 90 days because I knew it takes at least that long to become very well adapted to a ketogenic diet. The results have been so dramatic that I’ve gone three times as long as my original commitment with no plans of stopping.
A lot is new: weight lifting, podcast interview, thoughts on cravings, hair regrowth, and more. And a lot is the same: weight loss maintained, normalized blood pressure and blood sugar, all the other health improvements, and my 90 Day keto challenge programs.
Ongoing Health and Symptom Improvements
Here is a recap of the health improvements I’ve experienced over the last 9 months:
Normalized blood pressure
No more metabolic syndrome
Normalized liver function
Normal fasting blood glucose (went from 96 to 70)
70% drop in inflammation (C-reactive protein)
Only one migraine headache in the last 9 months (before keto I was having multiple migraines each month that lasted 6 days each)
Chronic leg pain is almost completely gone
Leg swelling almost complete gone
Memory and mental acuity are at pre-accident level
Energy is fantastic (one year ago I was bedridden from extreme fatigue)
Sleep has dramatically improved, both in quality and circadian rhythm
Urinary incontinence is gone
Athlete’s foot is nearly gone
Toe nail fungus is dying
Sugar, carb, and fast food cravings are gone
Depression and mood is greatly improved
Skin appearance and texture is so soft and smooth
Cardiovascular exercise endurance is unbelievable
Resting heart rate has dropped from high 80s to 60s
Heat intolerance is gone
Physical clumsiness and dropping things is almost gone
Motivation is through the roof
Light and noise intolerance is gone
Sense of ease, calm, peace (lack of anxiety)
Obesity is gone
Central abdominal obesity gone
Ability to return to work full-time
My diet remains pretty much the same and you can see what I eat by following me on Instagram here. For the most part, I don’t weigh or measure my food at this point because I’ve learned what foods and portions fit my keto macros. I did decide to do a dairy-free month, however.
Dairy-free month. Personally, I started to notice my consumption of heavy whipping cream was increasing over time and that each time I had some, it never felt like it was enough. I started having obsessive thoughts about how I could get more, so I decided it was time to take a break from it. This coincided with my 20 year old son (he’s keto, too) expressing his desire to do a dairy-free month, as well. He tends toward cystic acne that he has identifed in the past was triggered by dairy, so prior to keto he mostly avoided it. He decided to try dairy again when he went keto about 7 months ago, to see if the tendency for keto to dramatically reduce inflammation would mediate or prevent his normal reaction to dairy. At first, he did not seem to have his normal cystic acne breakouts, and he still doesn’t. However he wants to take his keto diet to the next level and cut out dairy to see if it will completely eliminate all acne (and my guess is that it likely will).
Keto without dairy is a challenge, however it is not impossible. I’m exploring dairy-free keto friendly foods, like Kite Hill cheese, Go Veggie cream cheese, and Epic Bars, plus some homemade recipes, so stay tuned for updates, new recipes, and product reviews.
Hiking and Lifting Weights
A few weeks ago, I was able to go hiking for the first time since the car accident. It had been 2.5 years since I’d gone hiking. It was a milestone, for sure. What was most impressive for me was my level of cardiovascular endurance. Previously, any time I’d go hiking, I would experience pretty significant hypoglycemia symptoms (like feeling delirious and lightheaded at the end) if I didn’t have a high carb snack along the way. This time I not only didn’t need a snack at all, but I also hadn’t even eaten breakfast. And we hiking for over 2 hours. I felt strong and energetic. And after the hike was over, I had thoughts of going for another walk. It was the feeling of tapping into my body’s ample supply of fat energy. It was glorious!
I also decided to start lifting weights and settled on the 5×5 stronglifts program. I joined my local no-frills gym and really enjoyed the feeling of challenging my muscles. Soon I noticed though that lifting weights three times per week suddenly brought my appetite roaring back. This freaked me out a bit, so I took a break from the gym to do a little investigation. After all I could from /ketogains on Reddit and Facebook, I came to the conclusion that I was dramatically under-eating calories (even when following my appetite) for the workouts I was doing and would actually need to go back to monitoring my intake to ensure I was getting enough calories on workout days. Since I have a trip to Phoenix planned a couple of weeks, I decided to hold off on my 5X5 workouts until I return and can adequately monitor my food intake.
Guest on Ketovangelist Podcast
A few weeks ago I had the honor of being a guest on The Ketovangelist podcast. It was really fun talking to Brian and sharing the story of my health transformation, plus some insight into what it is like working as a nutritionist while following a diet that goes against what mainstream nutrition says is health. Take a listen if you haven’t yet.
Over the last 3 months, my weight has been fairly stable, as well as my body fat percentage and measurements. There is a theory that your body remembers past weights that it was at for any significant period of time and tries to maintain that weight, which can result in plateaus. My body may just really like this weight (mid to low 160s). Or I might be consuming too much dairy, which equates to too many calories and/or extra inflammation. I shall continue to watch and see what happens. This does show that this way of eating is sustainable, however, since I don’t really track or measure my food any more.
September to February. Comparing measurements from September (pictured top right) to February (bottom right) I’ve lost nearly 1 inch on some measurements (chest, calf, bicep), almost nothing on my hips, but almost 2 inches on my waist.
December to February. My body’s measurements were pretty much the same when comparing December (middle picture on bottom; last time I took measurements) to February (picture on bottom right), which confirms that my body is in a holding pattern of weight maintenance.
Health Issues Improving
No more TMJ?!? So I hadn’t even reported on this in the past, but I just noticed two days ago that the former popping in my jaw is gone. I can open and close my jaw with ease, without any popping or locking. While this wasn’t something that I experienced any pain with, it was a sign of something not working correctly in my body. Another keto surprise benefit.
Hair regrowth. During the time that I was losing weight, my head shed a lot of hair. After researching this, I found that it is quite common on ANY diet where a person losing a significant amount of weight. I also found that there weren’t any supplements that counteracted this (research showed biotin supplementation, for example, was no more effective than waiting it out). It seems that weight loss is a significant stressor on the body in what ever form it takes. So it seems that as my weight loss has stopped, my hair has begun to regrow. I have about 1.5 – 2 inches of regrowth everywhere on my head. It makes for interesting extra fluff to style, but I’m happy to report that keto doesn’t make your hair fall out long term.
Athlete’s foot and nail fungus update. At one point I reported that my athlete’s foot of 10 years had gone away, but it seems to be dying a slow death. It is no longer occupying the bottom of my foot (no scaly, peeling skin there at all), but I have a small patch that has moved up onto the top of my foot and my little toes. It’s quite odd, as it seems to be moving in a wave, trying to run away from the ketone bodies, but it can’t escape. Athlete’s foot fungus is notoriously hard to kill, even with the strongest pharmaceuticals, so it is interesting to see how it is dying off with keto. And my nail fungus (which I think I also erroneously declared gone after a month) has grown out about one quarter of the length of my nail, so it too is dying a very slow death. I hope it’s painful, too. Well, not painful for me (which it’s not), but a slow, painful death for fungus just sounds like the stuff of a B horror movie.
No gas. This may be TMI, but I never fart. OK, almost never: when I add a lot of high-fiber seeds like chia, that can cause a little gas the next day, but a very small amount. And when I tried out Quest’s powdered MCT oil for travel last month, it caused a little gas and bloating initially, which I’m attributing to the small amount of corn fiber it contains. All of this “no gas” stuff is actually old news, but something I just realized that I hadn’t mentioned here. Keto is really great for getting rid of bacterial overgrowth (the wrong kinds in the wrong place, and too much of the wrong kind) in intestines.
Normal resting heart rate. A year ago, and for a very long time before that, my resting heart rate had always been in the high 80s. I’ve never been a super fit person aerobically, but even when I was in “better shape” my heart rate always remained in the mid- to high-80s. While at my endocrinologists office, I discovered that my resting heart rate is now about 68 – 70 beats per minute. Wow! It dropped about 20 points over last year. Now some might jump on this and say, “Well, you lost all that weight. Of course your heart rate dropped.” And to that I would say, no, I’ve been this weight in the past and even then my heart rate was in the 80s.
And others may say, “Oh, well you’re working out now, so you’re in better cardiovascular shape.” No, no, I’m not doing much “cardio” at all, so the drop in heart rate has nothing to do with being in better cardiovascular shape. At least by the standard idea of training hard, doing lots of exercises that make you breath hard so your body gets more efficient at carrying oxygen to your tissues idea of cardiovascular shape.
And still others may say, “Aha! That keto diet slowed down your metabolism!” Which may be partially true. However, since I’m not constantly freezing (in fact I still run warmer than most people around me), I would disagree that my drop in heart rate is due primarily to slowed metabolism. I would argue that since my body is using fuel more efficiently, as evidenced by the anecdote I shared above about hiking and treadmill walking, my heart does not need to pump as furiously to get oxygen and nutrients to my tissues.
Chronic Leg Pain
The chronic leg pain (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS) that I was suffering from after my car accident of 2014 did lift pretty quickly after I started keto. However, most recently as I’ve become more physically active with hiking and weight training, I am being reminded that there is still damage and scar tissue in my legs. Whereas before keto, if I would do ANY increased activity, like even sitting without my legs elevated, I would have extreme swelling and pain to the point that it would interfere with my sleep. Now as I resume hiking and begin lifting weights, I notice after that my legs feel tight (instead of swollen) and tender to the touch (allodynia, which means pain upon non-painful stimulus to the skin, which is a remnant of CRPS and sign of nerve damage). And when my massage therapist has worked my leg muscles, there is considerable pain with deeper work. But knowing where I was almost 2 years ago, I am very grateful I’m not back there!
I continue to have issues with sleep (central apnea) as I reported a few months ago. I’ve been working with a wonderful chiropractor as well as a massage therapist to properly align my neck and spine, and it has been helping. My sleep is improving, but I still continue to have issues with hypnoapnea early in the morning, which prevents me from getting optimal sleep. All of my doctors have said that central apnea is hard to treat, which is similar to what I was told about my neuro and endocrine symptoms after my car accident. And since I found a solutions for that (yay, keto!), I’m not giving up hope on resolving my central apnea. I’ve added chlorophyll with the idea that increasing my blood’s oxygen carrying capacity may help. And I continue to work with my primary Naturopathic Doctor as well as my Naturopathic Endocrinologist as we delve into the genetic medicine and nutrition of methylation defects.
How about you?
What health improvements have you noticed after following a ketogenic diet?
Brion and I met randomly while hiking with friends and as it turned out, he too follows a ketogenic diet. And as so many have experienced, he also had a health transformation as a result of following a very low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet.
I invited Brion over to chat about his keto diet. Some of his health improvements include improved mood, less alcohol use, and weight loss. Plus he talks about keto compared to other diets, like how with keto he’s not constantly hungry, unhappy, or irritable.
He concludes our discussion by saying, “I think it’s been a life changer.” Take a watch and listen. This is what keto is like for real people.